Title: Fish & Chips
Author: Abigail Roux, Madeleine Urban
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Action/Adventure, Suspense
Length: Novel ( 96 K, 314 PDF pages)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5, DIK
Summary Review: Fish & Chips is more than a worthy follow-up to Sticks & Stones. This book takes the series to a new level of excitement, suspense and tension, and the emotional vulnerability of the protagonists will grab fans by the throat and not let go until the very end.
Cut & Run Series Book Three: Sequel to Sticks & Stones
Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are back on the job, settled into a personal and professional relationship built on fierce protectiveness and blistering passion. Now they’re assigned to impersonate two members of an international smuggling ring—an out-and-proud married couple—on a Christmas cruise in the Caribbean. As their boss says, surely they’d rather kiss each other than be shot at, and he has no idea how right he is.
Portraying the wealthy criminals requires a particular change in attitude from Ty and Zane while dealing with the frustrating waiting game that is their assignment. As it begins to affect how they treat each other in private, they realize there’s more to being partners than watching each other’s backs, and when the case takes an unexpected turn and threatens Ty’s life, he and Zane will have to navigate seas of white lies and stormy secrets, including some of their own.
When last we saw Ty Grady and Zane Garrett they were in the Appalachian mountains where they faced danger from the unpredictable weather, the mountains, wild animals, and vicious fellow hikers with murderous intent, but their biggest challenge came from Ty’s father and in some ways, each other. Fish & Chips takes readers on a journey that gives us more than just a glimpse into Zane’s and Ty’s budding new relationship, it busts it wide open as they realize how much they want to mean something more to each other than the hot sex. We also get an up close and personal look into the addictions that drive Zane and pose a real threat to any hope he has of getting Ty to commit to something long term in the romance department. He had to face the fact that he would always be an addict, something that wouldn’t endear him to Ty.
In the first scene are the Ty and Zane we know from the previous books – tough, combative, uncompromising, and competitive as they beat the crap out of each other in the boxing ring at the Baltimore office, their new location. Obviously on the outside they haven’t changed much and this demonstration proved that they are the same hard assed agents, even though they now have a more personal relationship, and if you’re wondering whether Fish & Chips could possibly equal Sticks & Stones, wonder no more.
In F & C they are with each other 24/7 on a cruise ship, using their cover as a married high rolling couple to expose members of an international gang of smugglers. Because they were at sea they had a lot of down time to try and figure out what the hell their assignment was, which of their new friends were trying to kill them, and why. It soon became clear that this was a shell game within a game with much bigger players and higher stakes, and that their initial briefing was sadly lacking. One misstep or throw of the dice could end their lives in a flash. Their FBI back-ups were non existent and they were almost weaponless against a very cunning enemy who knew their every move in advance and could wait at their leisure for the ‘kill’.
One of the funniest parts of this book was how Ty became Del Porter, a very flamboyant gay man who was always dressed in the height of fashion and looked like a twink. If you know his character at all you will understand how much of his own personality Ty had to submerge and the sacrifices he had to make to look like Del, including the humiliating wax job, dyed short blond hair and tight clothes. He probably would have welcomed being shot at rather than appear in public looking like Del. 🙂 However he seemed to get into his new role as submissive sex kitten by practising a lot and having lots and lots of sex which Zane didn’t mind at all. There was even foreplay, something unheard of between these two. Can Ty and Zane ever have too much sex?
To say I was amazed by some aspects of this story was to put it mildly. I expected that the authors would write a pretty good plot, and I knew that they would try very hard to come up with something special because at this stage of any series fans expect and need more than just another wild adventure to keep them interested. We had become invested in this couple and most fans of the series wanted a much deeper relationship and understanding between them. What I didn’t expect were the emotions and vulnerabilities of both protagonists that were laid bare. Ty, Mr. Macho and Zane, Mr. Inscrutable at last open up and let us see what they really mean to each other and the lengths to which they would go. Zane showed his possessive side where Ty was concerned and it had nothing to do with their respective roles on this assignment. His biggest problem was how to hide these new feelings from Ty, who had his own secrets.
There are lots of thrills and near death experiences because Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux can’t seem to resist causing serious injuries to one or both of their characters, therefore the hurt/comfort theme continues in this book, although some of the injuries were to be expected because of the nature of their jobs as Federal Agents. My stomach was in knots for the latter half of the book at how much injury was inflicted mainly on Ty, who just happens to be my favourite hero in this series.
The first attempt on Ty’s life could have been an accident if it weren’t so obvious that someone badly wanted him out of the picture. The second one was just as directed and focused. Would the third time be lucky? In the meantime they were sitting ducks for whoever was targeting them. Would they be able to unravel the few clues they had before they were hit for a third and final time?
The pace of the book for about the first 25% was pretty slow as Ty and Zane had to establish their credentials with their targets, and they had to be extremely cautious not to put a foot wrong as this would would bring the entire operation down like a house of cards. Speaking of cards, because Zane knew a lot about gambling, another of his many addictions, he had to use that particular skill to develop a rapport with the smugglers by playing high stakes poker with them, literally and figuratively, flush their opponents out in the open while at the same time trying to stay away from alcohol, his drug of choice which flowed freely during the games. On one occasion he was so drunk he was unable to respond to a desperate plea for help from Ty when he could have died. He realized then how dangerous his addictions were in his job, and how close he came to losing Ty because his judgment was impaired by alcohol. And how would Ty pay Zane back for being drunk on the job and almost getting him killed? Let’s just say that an angry Ty Grady is not someone you want to mess with. Would this incident stop Zane from screwing up again? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
As always, all of the characters including most of the criminals were well drawn and I particularly liked the Italian couple, Bianchi and Norina. There were some amazingly funny lines and situations in the book and Ty found out that being fluent in Italian is a good skill to have. 🙂 Fish & Chips had many highs but for me one of the most enjoyable elements of the book was the deepening of the romantic relationship between Ty and Zane, to the point that I was moved to tears as they showed how much they really cared for each other. You’ll know what I mean when you experience their emotions as they are open and vulnerable and make it clear who is the most important person in their lives. Of course, being who they are this state of euphoria didn’t last all that long because there was always a crisis or an argument, but while it lasted it was so beautiful you would be hard pressed not to be moved.
If you thought you knew Ty and Zane, especially with the overload of emotions in the last book, Fish & Chips will reveal a very different relationship between them. Their growth in this latest book will make you admire the authors who have done such a wonderful job on these characters that at times they are almost unrecognizable from the guys you first met in Cut & Run.